Pinaki Atoll, French Polynesia, 4/11/2023, National Geographic Orion
National Geographic Orion
French Polynesia & Pacific Islands
Just before our wellness specialist Lani began her stretching class on deck 6, we arrived at the Pinaki atoll in French Polynesia. This very remote, rarely visited atoll is one of many in the Tuamotus group. Soon after breakfast, we unloaded Zodiacs and the platform to give guests the chance to dive and snorkel in the pristine tropical waters. The water temperature and the weather were perfectly suited for the activity.
We spent a perfect morning exploring another one of these paradisiacal atolls. We learned so much and got in lots of exercise to earn the (as always) delicious lunch awaiting us upon our return to National Geographic Orion.
Nicknamed “Indio” (Indian) because of his powers of observation and quiet nature, José has almost two decades of experience working as a naturalist and photography guide; as well as being recognized as an expert birder and nature photographer in Cost...
Ia Orana, or welcome to the islands of Raiatea and Tahaa in French Polynesia. Today, National Geographic Orion made its way through the passage of Raiatea at 6:30 a.m. Expedition staff and early risers readied themselves for a day of activity. Our first excursion was to the sacred marae of Taputapuatea. This very spiritual place is hailed as the most sacred cultural and traditional place of worship in all of Polynesia. As expedition staff led guests through this UNESCO World Heritage Site, they were in awe of its spiritual significance to the people of Polynesia. Lunch was enjoyed on board the ship as she sailed inside the lagoon of Raiatea, which connects to the lagoon of Taha’a. Close views of shoreside homes were spectacular in the afternoon sunshine. In the afternoon, some guests visited a vanilla farm on Taha’a Island, known as the Vanilla Island of French Polynesia. The rest of the guests were set free on a private island where they bathed in the glory of the turquoise blue lagoon. Rains showers didn’t dampen the spirits of anyone. In fact, the rain was welcomed by guests. They enjoyed a rinsing in fresh water as they took Zodiacs back to the ship. A great Captain’s farewell dinner was held on the back deck as the sun set over Taha’a. It was a beautiful way to end a very special day for all. Cheers!
This morning, National Geographic Orion awoke off the uplifted shores of Makatea in the Tuamotu archipelago. Makatea is a unique island in a chain of atolls. Unlike the rest of the Tuamotu chain, Makatea is an uplifted coral atoll. Makatea once looked like the other Tuamotus, a ring of coral with a stunning turquoise lagoon. Around two million years ago and 150 miles southwest, Tahiti began to form. The weight of the new volcanic island depressed the seafloor beneath it, creating a bulge that lifted Makatea out of the water. The geologic uplift is fascinating, and Makatea is unique in that it is one of three important phosphate deposits in the Pacific. This deposit was discovered around 1860. By 1908, an enterprise had formed that led to its extraction. Using shovels and buckets, men from Japan, China, Vietnam, and Polynesia extracted 11 million tons of phosphate in the 55-year span of the operation. After breakfast, we went ashore to explore this fascinating island. Birders searched for the three island endemics while hikers visited viewpoints and walked across the island amongst cavernous holes of uplifted coral where the phosphate was extracted. At the end of the road, our reward was a cold-water swim in an amazing cave! After lunch, we did a drift snorkel off the almost continuous band of cliffs that make up the amazing coastline of Makatea. Photo caption and photographer: Viewpoint overlooking beautiful Makatea. Photo by Elise Lockton
On the first expedition day of our voyage to Bora Bora, we arrived at the beautiful atoll of Rangiroa. Rangiroa is the second largest atoll in the world, and the entire island of Tahiti could fit inside the lagoon. Our morning was spent visiting the town and the local pearl farm where legendary Polynesian black pearls are grown. In the afternoon, we visited a snorkeling location called the Aquarium, which absolutely blew us away with its colorful reef life.